27 August 2008

Democracy in Denver, Continued

The main group of protesters in Denver during the convention week calls itself "Recreate 68." They claim that the Denver police violated an informal truce by making what amounted to preemptive arrests Monday night based on a tip that the group wanted to confront delegates at various VIP events after hours. What the group intends to do on the understanding that a truce was broken remains unclear. The group's very name makes one wonder. To "Recreate 68" in my mind means that you want a re-enactment of the violence on the streets of Chicago during the 1968 convention. That violence was later described as a "police riot" and at the time was called "Gestapo tactics" on the convention floor. The "Recreate 68" group themselves cannot re-enact a police riot. Should we assume that they wish to provoke one? If so, that limits any sympathy I can have for them if they get their heads cracked. That sympathy was already limited by historical knowledge. Why should someone want to "Recreate 68" when the ultimate consequence of the chaos in Chicago was not a mass uprising against the establishment, but the election of Richard Nixon as President?

Actually, I get it. They want to recreate the "whole world is watching" moment of romantic memory, regardless of what impression it actually makes. Their plan begs a question: what should the whole world be watching? A bunch of people basically looking for an opportunity to get arrested, or a more material statement of the mass dissatisfaction with Democratic politics that these protesters profess to express? If these demonstrators are more interested in putting on a show than in taking meaningful action, how different are they, really, from the joyriding yahoos from earlier this week whose supposed conspiracy to shoot Senator Obama seems to have been nothing but a pathetic attempt to get attention with effective props.

If somebody wants to make a real statement in Denver, it will come as a surprise. I don't mean that it would surprise me if something actually happens, but that it won't be announced ahead of time. The surprise will be part of the statement, and would be a necessary component of it if the intent is to disrupt our complacency in a way that Recreate 68, for all their plans, will not.

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